KATHMANDU: Ever thought about making your passion to save the environment a profitable business? Raju Rimal did.
Previously a renewable energy expert at the Agricultural Development Bank, Rimal set up his firm Solar Energy Systems in 2003 after 17 years of experience in the field.
Rimal and his business partner Saroj Prasad Paneru felt that there are a lot of business opportunities in the solar thermal field because there were not much technological upgrading in the field since solar thermal heaters came to Nepal in the 1970s.
While micro-hydro electricity and biogas plants got a lot of attention and money — much for being related to infrastructure development — solar thermal technology, an equally useful renewable energy source, was left behind because hot water is still considered a luxury.
"A lot of solar panels in Nepal are still conventional because there wasn´t much interest among the government, NGOs as well as donor agencies in importing newer technologies related to solar power," says Rimal.
Rimal began his company just to fulfill this vacuum. Only 1% tax is levied on renewable energy and there is no VAT, so the profit opportunities are greater in this field.
Solar Energy Systems imports the latest Chinese technology whose vacuum tube solar panel has over 50% efficiency in terms of retaining sunrays where traditional solar panels only have 23% efficiency.
But the firm doesn’t confine solar panels just for heating water.
"As 70% of the total energy required for a household is thermal, solar energy can provide all of this need," claims Rimal.
An example of using solar panels for household use is radiant floor heating. Rimal´s firm just set up solar-powered radiant heating in Patan Hospital. The initial setup cost for this type of heating can be between Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000 per square meter, but the running cost is zero which makes it economically appealing. Moreover this also reduces dependence on electricity and carbon emission.
Rimal says that apart from domestic use, solar energy could be a great cost saving technology for big industries. He shares an example of Golden Battery Industry, which needed to process their batteries at 80°C. Previously the Industry would use fossil fuel to heat water but now it has installed solar panels on the roof of the factory.
Rimal is currently lobbying for solar energy at national level.
"In Europe they are generating electricity from solar power. We only think about hydro electricity but Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is a lot more environment-friendly technology and is suitable in places where hydropower is not an option," shares Rimal.
His wish is to begin a CSP pilot project in Nepal so that the technology enters the country and solar power becomes a serious option for Nepal´s energy needs.